Elliott Carter, 1908-2012

Elliott Carter, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the most signifcant musical voices of the last century, has died at the age of 103.

Carter's music was rigorously built on highly elaborate systems, but it did not represent complexity for its own sake. Rather, it challenged listeners to hear sounds in new ways. The result was music that spoke to both the head and heart, with a distinct humanity that matched the personality of its creator.

Elliott Carter was born in New York on Dec. 11, 1908. He knew Charles Ives, the great American experimentalist composer, who encouraged the younger composer. After studying literature at Harvard University, he moved to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, who taught many of the greatest composers and musicians of the Twentieth Century. Upon returning to the U.S., he first lived in Cambridge, Mass., and then settled in New York City.

In 2008, the music world celebrated Carter's centenary with many concerts all over the world. That summer at Tanglewood, the entire Festival of Contemporary Music was devoted to Carter.

In October, one of Carter's true champions, pianist Ursula Oppens, visited our Fraser Performance Studio with two of Carter's works: 90+ and the Piano Sonata.

Ursula Oppens Plays Carter

Also in 2008, Boston Symphony Orchestra Principal Flutist Elizabeth Rowe gave the American premiere of Carter's Flute Concerto, a co-commission of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, Berlin Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Hear Elliott Carter's Flute Concert in concert, recorded at Symphony Hall on Nov. 19, 2011

Rowe's description of the piece reveals the character of both the music and the composer:

Elizabeth Rowe on Carter's Flute Concerto


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